Are You Willing to Let the Lord Write Your Child’s Testimony?

As parents it is natural to contemplate what paths our children will take.  We look at their strengths and weaknesses and speculate what the future will hold.  We imagine how their lives will unfold.  We hope for smooth sailing, straight roads, and few bumps along the way.  We pray for health and success, safety and provision, triumphs and victories.  Down deep, we hope for ease and often pray for it expecting God to work within our pre-approved framework. Continue reading “Are You Willing to Let the Lord Write Your Child’s Testimony?”

Leaving Little For Those We Love

Yesterday I opened the refrigerator door and found this:

dscn5902

I’ll give you a brief moment to locate the problem (although I am confident that you saw it immediately).

  • Too many eggs?  Yes, but not the problem.
  • Refrigerator way too organized…kind of like it was staged?  Well, yes.  I did indeed tidy up my fridge knowing that I’d be posting a photo.  But still, not the problem.
  • Way too many vegetables?  One can never have too many fresh vegetables!
  • Aloe Juice, really?  Yes, it’s great for an upset stomach.

This is the problem:

dscn5900

The guilty party, whose identity is still unknown to me, decided that instead of finishing all of the orange juice, they would kindly leave a mere sip for the next poor soul.  This is kind of a big deal in our home.  I rarely purchase juice, so to have orange juice in the refrigerator is an event.  To have this amount of orange juice left in the container is a crime.

I imagine that some of you are shaking your head in agreement.   You’ve experienced the nearly empty milk container, the crumbs left in the bottom of the cereal box, and the ice cream container with 1/4 teaspoon left.  How frustrating it can be when we are left feeling unsatisfied!

I believe that the frustration that develops from these incidents has little to do with juice, cereal, or ice cream.  The frustration comes from the fact that someone thought that the next person to come along would be satisfied with little.  They believed that the left over scraps would be just enough for someone else to get by with.   Somehow that person was content with filling their cup to capacity, while leaving the next person’s cup nearly empty.  The real root of our frustration is the selfishness of the other party.

Staring at that nearly empty orange juice container got me thinking.   How often do I leave little for the ones I love?  It’s likely more than I may realize.

In a time of full schedules and over-commitment, where our time is portioned out into neat bundles,  we can have the tendency to push our loved ones to the last vacancy on the list.  We use the little spare time that we do have and selfishly cling onto it often filling it with mindlessness and nonsense.  Are we filling our cup to the brim, but leaving nothing but crumbs for those around us?   Our spouse, our children, and yes, most often our Lord, are left with the remnants, the bits and pieces of what we decide to leave them with.  Somehow we believe the lie that they will be satisfied with the little we give.  Somehow we envision that a relationship can flourish and thrive when we leave those we love most with the smallest bit of us.

It won’t.

This is an area that I have been greatly convicted about in my own life.  I can spend far too much time on the computer.  Much of my time is spent doing things that I must do: preparing for school, doing lesson plans, planning activities for some of my boys’ groups, and running our produce co-op.  I try my best to work on those things early in the morning or late at night.  But if I am honest with myself, there are times that I can get distracted from the work at hand.

Distractions can lead us down a road of cute puppy videos, gluten free recipes, silly quizzes, and games.  Nothing satisfying.  Nothing of significance.  All void of meaning.  Distractions take us away from what is most important.  Distractions rob those around us.  Distractions announce our priorities without us uttering a word.  Distractions flat out can waste our precious time.

I completely understand that a balance needs to be found in life.  Work does indeed need to be completed.  Errands do need to be run.  And, yes indeed, you do need to find a bit of down time to relax, rest, and recharge.

The problem rests in our habits, in the everyday patterns we form.  Is checking your email and browsing online taking priority over prayer and time in the Word?  Are tweeting and texting causing you to tell your child, “Just one more minute,” for the fifth time in a row?  Is a good book or just one more chapter replacing a goodnight snuggle with your spouse?  Occasionally? Or, everyday?

I am rather confident that if each of us really evaluated our day and honestly looked at how we spend our time, we could identify areas where change is warranted.  Certainly we could make a list of things that can wait.  We could prioritize and make time for the things that truly matter.  We can make sure that our loved ones are not feasting on leftovers.

The other day hubby and the boys were playing football.  I thought that this would be the opportune time to complete this post, a post that has been sitting in my draft file for nearly six weeks.  So I got to work.  After typing a mere two sentences, my older son came inside and asked, “We’re walking down to the high school track; want to come.”

I paused before I opened my mouth.  There was a huge part of me that simply wanted to get this post done and finished.  But then I realized that my sixteen year old son had just requested to hang out with his mother.  Really, do I even need to think about this?  Not at all.   I closed out the post, strapped on my sneakers, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and fresh air my family.

Just this evening, as the boys were finishing up showers and such, I sat down to put the finishing touches on this post.   Shortly after I sensed someone behind me.  It was my youngest son.

“Wow, you finished up quickly,” I said.

“Yep,” was his simple answer.

“Want to do something before bed?  Play checkers?  Battleship?”

“How about you finish up what you are doing first,” he said.

I paused.  I knew exactly where that would lead.

“Nope.  This can wait.  You are far more important than this.  Grab a game.”

I mention these incidents not to boast but instead to illustrate that we are given many opportunities during the day to make choices.   With each decision we make a choice to either fill someone’s cup or to leave it nearly empty.

I try to remind myself that anything worthwhile requires time…dedicated time, not distracted time.  There are no shortcuts here.  We cannot expect to have meaningful relationships with our children if they do not have our undivided attention.  We cannot have a strong bond with our spouse if we continue to feed them our leftovers.  We cannot expect a closeness and oneness with our Lord if the world takes priority over the Word.   That is reality.

So the next time you are left with a drop of coffee in the pot, or an 1/8 of a brownie, or the last blueberry in the container (seriously, how mean can you be?), let it serve as a reminder to take a different road and to leave our loved ones filled to the brim.

How Will My Life Change After the Election?

It was roughly three years ago.  I was in my kitchen preparing lunch.  As I typically did, I turned on the radio to catch up on some news and the political talk of the day.  I listened for no more than five minutes then promptly turned the radio off in frustration.  I dried my hands and picked up the ringing phone.  It was my husband.  He usually called at lunch time to check in with the boys and me.

“I can’t do it anymore,” I snapped.  “I can’t listen to the radio.  I can’t watch the news.  I can’t read the paper.  I am powerless to change any of this.  I just can’t do it anymore.”

Those were the first words that spewed from my mouth after my husband said hello.  I continued to explain that all of the political banter and divisiveness was affecting me.  Thinking about all that was wrong with our country was stirring up such angst within me that it was interfering with my primary roles in life.  I was a Christian, a wife, and mother.  The worry, concern, and disgust I had for the state of government and politics in general was taking a toll.

So from that day on, I tuned out.   No more radio, no more political talk, no more evening news, or internet searches.  No more blood pressure rising.  No more frustration over what I was powerless to change.  No more.  Simply no more.

I was going to put all of my efforts into the things that I could change, the things that I had control over.  My walk with the Lord.  Rooting out the unlovely parts of me.  Supporting and loving my husband more.  Being there completely for my kids and not letting my frustrations become theirs.  Although I had already been in the Word, been loving and enjoying my relationship with my husband, and spending good quality time with my boys,  there was this distraction, this gloomy gray cloud that hung over me.   I’m sure it robbed me of joy.  I know it robbed me of peace, and most importantly, it shifted my eyes off of the Lord.  That needed to change.

I really lifted this up to the Lord, and not surprisingly, He provided me with the direction that I needed.

I realized that the Lord had planted me in this time, in this country, in my state, as part of my town.  He placed me on my street, in my house, with my family.  All within His plan for me.  He called me to make this place, my home, my place of influence for Him.   Paul effectively stated the same belief:

…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation… Acts 17:26

While this little ol’ housewife from New Jersey wasn’t going to influence the face of Washington, the Lord did grant to me great influence in the lives of the people who are around me.  In fact, He has given you that same calling, that same influence, to be  a light to those around you.  Maybe that means your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your co-workers, or your friends.  The last thing this world needs is one more person jumping into the political debate.  The first thing this world needs is one more person spreading the Lord’s message of love and salvation.  Only then will the world truly change, only then can the face of Washington and our politicians truly change.

Now please realize that I am not advocating completely turning a blind eye to what is going on around you.  I am not saying that you should throw your hands up in the air and sit back and watch the government have its way.  No, not at all.  You do have a voice; I have a voice, and it should be used.  I am simply saying that if you find yourself in the position I was, where your mind is preoccupied, distracted, and troubled, you need to change gears.  You need to re-evaluate your priorities and remind yourself that there is One who is in complete control, even while the world seems to be spinning out of control.

So as I prepare to cast my vote this Election Day, I am reminded that regardless of the outcome, my life will not change.  I will still be a wife: I will still be a mother, and I will still have the same calling as a child of the Lord.   No change of leadership, no changing of the law will take that away.

 

 

 

Why This Mom Likes Football

In a day where there are so many things and people vying for the attention of our children, it has become vitally important to stay connected with them.  If we as parents do not create an environment where our children know that they are valued and loved, they will certainly look outside of the home to find the acceptance they crave.  If they sense that we as parents do not care about them and their interests, they will find someone else who does.  If we show that we have little time to be involved in their world, there will be others who will make the time…and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

This season of raising our children is a short one.  Before we know it they are toddlers, then pre-teens, then college bound, then off on their own.   We’ll wonder where the time went.  We’ll yearn for just a little more time.

Your children need you.  Your children want you…really, they do.  They want your love, attention, acceptance, and time.   One of the best ways to show them all of these things is to simply be involved in what they are interested in.  Nearly every child has something they gravitate to.  Sports?  Music?  Art?  The outdoors?  Find out what it is and jump on board!

For all three of my boys, that interest is football.

I have to admit that, in the past, football had always perplexed me.  Despite my husband’s best attempts to explain the game to me, I just couldn’t understand how it worked.  Yards, downs, conversions?  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.  My husband has never been a sports follower so I really had no need to explore football any further…and I didn’t.

Then it happened.  I’m not sure how it happened or exactly when it happened, but my boys discovered football.

With each passing season the boys’ interest would grow.  They would have “their team”, each one different from his brother.  Talk at the dinner table would include highlights from Monday Night Football or talk of why so-and-so needed to be benched.  They’d design plays to use when their buds got together.  They, like so many other boys their age, had been bitten by the football bug!

I had to come to the point where I asked  myself these questions:  Is this football thing just an interest of my boys, for my boys?  Or could this be more?  Could it be a tool to connect with my boys on a different level?  A catalyst for a myriad of important real life conversations?  I soon realized that I had a choice:  I could embrace this football thing and become an active participant, or I could be an outsider, a clueless observer.

The choice was easy.  This mom would learn about football.

I first turned to my boys to explain the ins and outs of the game to me.  And, they did.  Why I had never understood the game is simply beyond me.  (Four tries to go ten yards…repeat…not so difficult).

I began to watch games with the boys.  I made sure that I knew what was going on in the world of football.   I would chime in on football related discussions.  I began to cheer for a team.  I learned how to throw a football properly courtesy of my youngest son.  I even went with the boys to our local team’s training camp.  I got to know the players and teams.  I shared in the excitement of a big win or the disappointment of a terrible loss.  I even have given a hearty “Woo-Hoo” with hands raised at a great play.

The result?  Lots of fun.  Great memories.  A tighter relationship with each of my boys.  Totally worth it!

I do want to make it clear that football is not a god in our home.  My husband and I have put parameters up.  Football never takes priority over church, school, or people.  It is not allowed to dominate our time, conversations, or interactions.   Also, football is just one way that we choose to connect with our children; it’s just one way we choose to spend time with them; it’s just one way that we show them that their interests are important to us.  Football is not the “end-all-be all”.

Football has also given my husband and I endless opportunities to talk about real life situations with our boys.  I have to admit that there is a great deal of frustration over how some of these players live their lives.  It’s seems like a never ending barrage of news reports about men behaving badly.  Yet, instead of pretending that those reports don’t exist, we talk openly about them.   We discuss how drugs and alcohol can ruin someone’s life.  We talk about the proper way to treat women.  We discuss poor sportsmanship.  We talk about the emptiness of living a self absorbed life.  Ultimately, it paints a picture of what life is like without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

I also want to make it clear that we as parents need to use common sense.  If our child’s interest is actually an obsession, we should not feed into that further.  If their hobby is troublesome, we should work to steer them in a different direction.

Being a parent is a privilege!  Take this season of your life and get more involved with your kids.  You’ll never, ever regret it!

So, I’m not sure what you will be doing this Sunday evening, but I know where I’ll be.  You guessed it!  In my livingroom with my family, watching the big game.  They’ll be good food, great fellowship, and likely opportunities for more heart-to-heart conversations.

 

 

 

A Fun Family Craft: 3D Snowflakes

With three boys ages ten through nearly fifteen in the house, craft time is, well, becoming a thing of the past (understandably). However, there is one craft that still gets them all, hubby included, to the table to join in: paper snowflakes. We’ve been making these little gems since the kids were toddlers. It’s a downright cheap craft with potentially spectacular results. I simply adore my wintertime windows bedecked with these handmade beauties.

Last year while shopping I encountered paper snowflakes like I had never seen before. These gigantic creations, roughly three feet high, were three dimensional and looked so intricate and complex that it left me stunned. How in the world were those made? Each time I entered that store, I admired their beauty but never gave a thought to investigating how to make them myself.

A few weeks ago as I was planning for a project for my co-op’s art class, those snowflakes came to mind. With a few spare minutes I hit Pinterest. I did a quick search for “3D Snowflakes”, and, voila!; there they were! After doing a bit of reading, what had initially seemed like an impossible task, now seemed doable. My art class is comprised of children ages eight through ten; I was confident that they would be able to complete this project with a little assistance. That evening I made one for myself. I was amazed at how easy it was. In the morning, when my ten year old came downstairs and took a look at the snowflake, he asked, “This is not the art project for today, is it? We’ll never be able to do that!” I assured him that it appeared much more difficult than it actually was. I kept reassuring him that he and his class could indeed do this!

My art class gasped when they saw the project of the day. They too, like my son, thought that I had gone off the deep end and presented them with an impossible task. I assured them that as long as they listened and followed instructions they would create this spectacular masterpiece with their own two hands. Listen and follow instructions they did. By the end of class, there was a flurry of gigantic snowflakes and great big smiles! Success.

What you’ll need:

  • 6 pieces of sturdy, white craft paper, each cut into an 8″ square
  • a stapler
  • clear tape

How to pull this off:

snowflake 004

Begin by folding one of the paper squares in half diagonally, creating a triangle.  Run your finger along the seam to secure.

snowflake 005

Fold the same triangle in half again, forming a smaller triangle.  Again run your finger along the seams to secure.

snowflake 006

Repeat these steps with the remaining pieces of square paper.  You should then have six identical, folded triangles.

Position one triangle in front of you with the single, folded seam in front of you horizontally ( as pictured below).

Starting at the bottom, left corner of the triangle, measure off four, one inch segments, marking each with a dot.

snowflake 007

Beginning with the outermost marking on the right side, draw a 5 1/2″ diagonal line.  The line should run parallel to the edge of the paper. (I used a dark pencil for demonstration purposes.  I suggest lightly drawing your lines with pencil.)

Moving to the next mark, draw a 4″ line, again running parallel to the paper and the previous line drawn.

Next, draw a 2 1/2″ diagonal line from the next mark.

Finally, from the last mark, draw a 1″ line.  All of the lines that you just drew should run parallel to one another, as well as parallel to the outer, right edge of the triangle.

snowflake 008

Beginning at the bottom seam, gently cut along each line, being sure to stop at the end and going no further.

Repeat this same process in steps 5-10 with the remaining five folded triangles.

Gently unfold and flatten one of the cut triangles.  Have the paper positioned with the tips of the paper facing up and down, in a diamond shape.

snowflake 009

Have a small 1″ piece of tape ready.

Working from the inside, bring the two center pieces together, tips overlapping a bit, forming a tube.  Secure the pieces together with tape.

snowflake 010

Flip the paper over.  Have another piece of tape ready. With the next two center pieces, bring them together, tips overlapping by about 1/4″-1/2″, forming a slightly larger tube than the last.  Secure with tape.

snowflake 011

Flip the paper over again and have another piece of tape ready.  Bring the tips of the next two pieces toward one another, and tape together.

snowflake 012

Flip and repeat this process twice more.  You will find that as you move outward and work with the larger sections of paper, the space needed to overlap becomes greater.

Upon completion, you will have joined all corners together into a series of alternating tubes.

snowflake 014

Repeat steps 12-18 with the remaining five cut triangles.

Take three of your completed pieces and join the bottom tips together.  Staple together.  Repeat this with the remaining three pieces.  This will leave you with 2 stapled sections.

snowflake 016    snowflake 017

Bring the stapled portions together, overlapping by at least 1″.  Staple the two sections together to form one unit.

snowflake 018    snowflake 019

Using a stapler or a bit of tape, work to secure the upper portion of each individual section to each other to prevent “flopping”.

snowflake 003
This is the snowflake made by my 10 year old son! He just needed a little help taping and stapling!

NOTES:  To create a smaller snowflake, you can simply begin with smaller size squares of 6″, 5″, or 4″.   Regardless of what size you decide on, remember that all six squares need to be identical in size.  Just keep in mind that the smaller in size that you go, the finer the work needs to be with your fingers.

The 47th Pillsbury Bake Off

“Life in the Van”  took on a whole new meaning this past week as my crew took a road trip to Tennessee.  After the completion of twenty-two hundred  miles of driving, we were left with some awesome memories, ones that I know we will not soon forget!

The reason for our trip?  The 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off rolled into Nashville, and I was fortunate to have been selected as a finalist.  This would be my second consecutive year as a finalist.  Last year’s trip to Las Vegas was a whirlwind of epic proportions!  I was incredibly nervous and so tired that I truly didn’t take in the whole Bake Off experience as  I should have.  This year I vowed to leave my nerves at home and to allow myself the time to absorb as much of this iconic event as I could.

How does one become a Bake Off finalist?  Well, I don’t believe in luck.  I believe in providence.  God has everything orchestrated.  He gives us all abilities and skills.  He puts us where He wants us to be, when He wants us there.  There are individuals who have entered their recipes into the Bake Off for years with no result.  Then there are those who enter one recipe, one time, and they are named to the final one hundred.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  It’s hard to say what the powers-that-be at Pillsbury are looking for, but it’s safe to say that a simple recipe with a creative twist gets their attention.  Pillsbury has always been vague about the number of recipes they receive for each Bake Off, however, a few finalists reported that they were told that nearly 60,000 recipes were submitted this year.  Whoa!  That’s insane!   When I heard that I was even more amazed that I was in Nashville.

My recipe for the 46th Bake Off was on the creative side, but not particularly quick and easy to put together.  It was delicious but possibly too labor intensive.  I walked away from last year’s experience thinking that future submissions should be simpler to prepare and a bit more straight-forward.  I put together twelve recipes for consideration this year.  All of them were simple and easy and a bit of a departure from how I normally cook at home.  I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by the recipe they selected: a humble muffin.  This recipe featured Pillsbury’s new gluten free cookie dough.   The recipe utilized the cookie dough as both the base for the muffin, as well as the base for the crumb topping.  I was unsure if a gluten free recipe could win at the Bake Off.  I have to admit, in my gut, I knew that this year’s recipe would not be a contender for the big prize.  In a way, knowing that up front was a bit freeing.  I went into the Bake Off not expecting a single thing to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still hoping and praying, but I wasn’t consumed with winning.  I had resigned myself to just go and have fun.

I was thrilled to have my family along for the ride this year.  While we didn’t purchase full access passes for them, I knew that they would be able to share in some of the excitement.  After checking into The Omni Hotel, we made our way to the second floor to check in with Pillsbury.   You could literally feel the excitement in the air.  Banners, various displays, and one smiling face after another decorated the halls.  I was handed my “goodie bag” and then proceeded to meander about embracing old friends and making new ones.

E75FF434AAC24F0BBA9F77C1D53B55C4      D5DE3DDD7CC744ECAA5F83C8BE2B625A

The afternoon would be filled with interviews, appliance orientation, a question and answer session, and group photo.  It was busy, but somehow relaxed as well.  In between, I would check in with my family.  My youngest son was thrilled that he saw the Doughboy.  Before arriving at the hotel, he was quite persistent in asking me whether or not there would actually be a Doughboy there.  I assured him that the Doughboy wouldn’t miss this event.

10801916_342155922629537_3601806922612677464_n

The night would end with a wonderful dinner reception featuring some delicious southern fare.

10689816_342155859296210_6049740591987837543_n

I opted to cut the dinner reception a bit short and head back to my room.  I knew tomorrow would start early.  I put in my wake up call request for 5:00 a.m., then headed off to sleep.

Little did I know that a freight train rolls through Nashville at regular intervals through the wee hours of the morning.  The first blast woke us all up.  The second escaped the ears of my kids.  When I heard the train horn blast at 4:00 a.m., I knew the time for sleep had ended.  I got ready and met up with a new found friend for a few moments of prayer before breakfast.  But before heading out the door, I left one prayer request with my family: “Please pray that I can put out a good product for judging.”  For the first time, I felt the butterflies begin to flutter in my belly.  I knew I wasn’t alone because the majority of my breakfast mates commented on how they didn’t have much of an appetite.

The time was here.  All one hundred finalists congregated outside of the ballroom.  We were lined up according to our range number.  I would be at range ninety-two.  Again, there was a lot of energy and excitement to be felt.  Big, deep breaths!  Big, deep breaths!  In just moments we would wind our way around the ballroom as part of the traditional Grand March.  To add to the exuberant air, our host, Carla Hall, made an appearance.  She was so friendly and warm, and talk about energetic!  She was going to be a great host.  With that, it all began.  The fiddler started fiddling, and we began making our way around the ballroom.  You couldn’t help but smile and clap your hands.  High fives with Carla and the Doughboy for everyone.  Waves to the crowd.   I was smiling so much that my cheeks hurt…literally!  And when the last person made their way to their range, we were given the go ahead to get started.  We’d have the next three and half hours to make our recipe.

 Tennessee & Bake Off 278            Tennessee & Bake Off 295

621C7630208941E281E7E9C37C5D9566

My recipe was quite straight forward.  No fancy techniques or finicky ingredients this year.  I used the first few minutes to inventory my equipment and ingredients.  I was missing one item.  Within a minute, someone from Pillsbury swooped up the missing liners and handed them right to me.

I loved my range location.  I was in the middle of the back row.  I had a great view of the entire ballroom.  I would be sure to occasionally lift my head up to simply look around, to see everyone else basking in the moment.  In the busyness, there was calmness, a sense of joy, like we all were keenly aware of just how cool this was.  My family was in the spectator area right behind me.  They weren’t supposed to be there; they were supposed to be at the nearby football stadium walking around.  That was the plan.  We had trouble with the purchase of spectator tickets, so we just decided to forgo any tickets.  I would find out later that my husband and boys were simply hanging out outside of the ballroom.  My husband, who talks to everyone, was shooting the breeze with someone who was monitoring the ballroom doorways.  That individual found out that I was in there competing.  My husband was told to go inside so the boys could see their mom compete.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to turn around and see their excited faces!

I very methodically worked on my recipe.  My first batch of muffins went into the oven, and I promptly began the next batch.  I was hoping to have enough time to bake all three batches, sample them, then decide which one I felt most comfortable sending off to the judges.  That’s exactly what happened.  By hour number two, I had muffins lined up all over my workstation.  They all looked and tasted just as they should.  I felt such a sense of relief to know that whichever batch I selected, the judges would receive a good representation of my original recipe.  That’s really all I had prayed for.

When Pillsbury assigns finalists to their ranges they group them according to the product they are using.  Roughly three-quarters of our row was comprised of finalists using Pillsbury’s Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.   All was relatively quiet on “Gluten Free Row”.  I had the opportunity to speak with a writer for a gluten free magazine.  I told her that I actually do cook gluten free at home due to my youngest son’s gluten intolerance.  There were other bloggers and Pillsbury personnel who casually made their way down our row as well.  Photographers came and snapped away, but the flurry of media and television cameras following the event host, Carla Hall,  never actually made it to our area.  At one point I remember chuckling to myself.  See last year’s experience was quite different.  Last year there was nonstop traffic at my station.  Something about those little meatball skewers caught everyone’s attention last year.  But this year, my humble muffin was not a show stopper.  I will say my range neighbor April, who had a simply delicious gluten free cake, had her fair share of interest.  There were plenty of cameras catching her every move.

BF4EDA9E95324987ADE035D2CCD251CB

With about one hour left to the competition, I selected batch number two as the one.  I arranged the muffins on a platter and headed over to the table nearest the judging room.  After signing a legal document stating that I made my own recipe and did in fact turn it in for judging, I went back to my station, cut up the remaining muffins for samples, and exhaled.  My husband was trying to flag me down to bring him some samples.  I told him that I wasn’t allowed to do so.  No sharing samples with the crowd (which seems kind of cruel)!  I took some time and walked the Bake Off floor sampling a few other recipes, mostly from our gluten free zone.  They were all so good.  And soon there after came the announcement that the 47th Pillsbury Bake Off was finished.  That’s it, all done.

With a bit of free time before dinner, my family drove around Nashville passing by the Grand Ole Opry, visiting Antique Archaeology (from the show American Pickers), and walking around LP Stadium, the home of the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee & Bake Off 321         Tennessee & Bake Off 324

I was really taken back by how clean the city of Nashville was; I mean it was immaculate.  I was also impressed with how friendly everyone we met was.  I’m from the Northeast.  Things move quick here; people move quick here, but the pace here in Nashville was different.  People actually took the time to not only say “hi”, but to also talk to you.  I loved it!  With a fun afternoon behind us, it was back to the Omni.  At this point, I would head off to dinner on my own.

Dinner was a delicious sit down meal.  It was at that meal that I was reminded that the Lord directs our paths and allows those paths to cross with others providentially.  Sharon, a fellow finalist from Pennsylvania, sat next to me at dinner.  It was uncanny how much the two of us had in common: the same beliefs, the same sense of calling with regards to our family, even some of the same challenges.  Meetings like this are not coincidence or happenstance; they’re orchestrated!  I left dinner feeling very blessed!

After dinner we made our way to a dessert reception.  Then it was off to the Country Music Hall of Fame for the awards ceremony.  Carla Hall was the host, and she still seemed to be full of energy and excitement.  There were several special sponsor awards to be handed out before naming the four category winners.  Sadly, there were no awards to be found for my little muffin, but how wonderful it was to see the surprised faces of those who did walk away with prizes.  You can’t help but celebrate with each of them!  Each winner received a cash prize and a little golden Doughboy!

7AF36524C7B34653B07DF6DFA93A1EC1    D3EA479CA8FD4D3CA47FB42FD20CBF8D

Congratulations to each finalist!

This year there is a little twist to the Bake Off.  For the first time, the scores of the judges will be combined with the voting results from the public.   That means America has the opportunity to cast a vote for the recipe they feel deserves the million dollar prize.  You can head over to the Pillsbury website to find out how you can vote.

With that, I said my good-byes and headed off to my room to pack.  We’d be heading for home in the wee hours of the morning.  I walked into the hotel room and let my kiddos know that there was no win this year.  I made sure to remind them that in order to attempt to win,  you have to be willing to lose as well.  I also reminded them that the Lord has plans for us, maybe not plans for earthly riches or a healthy bank account, but plans that are far more valuable.

The morning would find us watching the sun rise from the van window, while the evening would find us watching the same sun set out the opposite window.  I was a little sad to see the last “Buckle Up Y’All, It’s the Law” sign pass by, but it was also so good to heading back home.

It was a long ride home but a fun ride home as we recounted our newest family adventure.